“Invisible in Austin: life and labor in an American city”

Invisible in Austin: life and labor in an American city, ed. by Javier Auyero. Texas, 2015. 271p bibl afp ISBN 9781477303658 pbk, $24.95.

Six photos of people, houses, stores, offices, etc. Symbolizing the various occupations and activities related in book essays

Inspired by the work of Pierre Bourdieu, 12 students and a professor in a sociology graduate seminar produced this collection of life stories from what sociologist Loïc Wacquant called the “urban precariate.”  Each student met with a respondent in multiple conversations over several months.  The students “fashioned” stories from these conversations and through collective discussion in the seminar.  All respondents were shown drafts of the stories before publication.  Some stories contain mild caveats about the accuracy of the facts or opinions related.  One chapter outlines the historical context of Austin, Texas and the other 11 include a construction worker, a waitress, a sex worker, a copier repairman, a musician, a house cleaner, a taxi driver, and others.  The writing is clear and interesting, reminiscent of journalism and memoir.  Sociological concepts are introduced in each chapter without much elaboration.  The stories explore the tension between structural constraints (neoliberal Texas state policy, gentrification, segregation) and the individuals’ struggles to make meaning of their lives and their situations.  Wacquant’s Afterword provides a theoretical discussion and suggestions for further work.  For students in the social sciences, especially work, inequality, and urban policy.  SUMMING UP:  Highly recommended.  All levels/libraries.

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